Vialink Offers Archaeologists An Assist At Miami Circle
Written by Marilyn Bowden on September 14, 2000
By Marilyn Bowden
Attempts to map the Brickell Point site where the archaeologically important Miami Circle was discovered have been aided by a businessman donating time and equipment to measure its features using state-of-the-art technology.
Steve Kilmon, president of ViaLink, a local company that uses Global Positioning System technology, or GPS, for large-scale mapping programs, proposed a solution to a problem confronting county archaeologist John Ricisak.
Mr. Ricisak is trying to decipher a possible pattern or order to myriad holes at the site, which is linked to settlements in the region than may be 19 centuries old.
Mr. Kilmon is surveying the site using cutting-edge technology to achieve previously untried levels of accuracy. He estimated the value of the job at $100,000.
"It will take a year to do it all," he said, "The only way to see the overall picture is in a computer overview."
While GPS mapping with horizontal accuracy to several hundredths of a foot is fairly common, Mr. Kilmon said, no other firm has accomplished three-dimensional accuracy to a 5,000th of a foot, the magnitude employed for the Brickell Point site.
Three dimensional mapping of the holes reveals variations in depth, positioning and formation that may yield clues to their purpose, he said.
ViaLink — which he said prepared maps of the Valujet crash site in the Everglades — will also superimpose high-resolution digital aerial photographs and survey grids showing where artifacts were found on computer models of the Circle site.
Mr. Ricisak said the Circle — which has been uncovered for mapping — will be re-covered next week shortly after a British Broadcasting Corp. crew finishes a shoot on the area that it begun during a dig this summer.
The county may use a state grant to solicit bids from professional photographers for aerial shots free of distortions, Mr. Ricisak said, and also to complement Mr. Kilmon’s work with more traditional surveying methods.
"We need to get better photos of the site than we have up to this point," he says. "Most of what we have were taken from a crane looking straight down in the final days of the controversy."
The circle of 24 large holes in the limestone bedrock that came to be known as the Miami Circle was discovered at the site during routine archaeological excavations after the demolition of an apartment building to make way for new development in 1998.
Although its function is not known, archaeologists have suggested it was once the site of a Tequesta Indian building. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal samples from the site date back to about AD 100.
A grass roots movement to preserve the site, at the confluence of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, led the state to buy it last year. State archaeological officials have said a task force of state, county and city representatives to begin long-term planning for the site will be set up over the next year.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ricisak said, digging has been completed and classification of the artifacts found is next on the agenda.
These include the hundreds of holes in the limestone similar to those composing the Miami Circle, he said.
"Picking out the circle is easy," Mr. Ricisak said, "but figuring out what the others are is not so easy.
"We have hundreds and hundreds of other holes, most of which appear to be randomly distributed. They look like all the stars in the night sky.
"This could be because they are random or because there are so many it’s hard to pick out patterns.
"It could be we are looking at patterns superimposed over other patterns superimposed over others over 1,200 years, for an infinite variety of purposes — some related to structures or huts such as whatever the Circle was associated with, some to erect totem poles or racks for drying fish or skins, for example." Details: ViaLink, (305) 891-9393 or flheritage.com/brickellpoint.